That’s not just true in Chicago. A survey conducted by Engaging Neighbors, Refugees, Immigrants, in Community Health (ENRICH) in Portland, OR, found that nearly one-third of parents cited crime as a limiting factor in allowing their children to bike in their communities.
Ewing hears those concerns, as well. Though they’re given a lock when they earn a bicycle through the Cascade Bicycle Club Major Taylor program, some students come back empty-handed within a few days. “Many of our kids live in apartments and, based on religious belief or cultural beliefs, parents won’t allow the bike into the home, because the bike is looked at as the lowest level of transportation,” Ewing said. “So the bike is left outside and gets stolen.” Now, because of their work with diverse youth, Cascade advocates are working with city planners to solve that problem by adding basic amenities like secure bike parking to public housing units.
Those types of partnerships and solutions are blossoming across the continent.
The Future of the Movement
Standing at the podium of the Youth Bike Summit, wearing a shy but eager smile, Alpha Barry proudly professed: “I’m a student, a bike mechanic, a bike rider and an advocate.”
Growing up in a small village in Guinea, a nation on Africa’s west coast, Barry said, “Only two families in the village owned a car, and even a bicycle was a treasure.” Rather than looking forward to a driver’s license, Barry longed to apprentice in a bike shop, which intoxicated him with the scent of “grease, oil and hard work.” As a teenager, Barry’s bicycle dream came true – more than 4,000 miles (6,400 kilometers) away, in New York City, NY.
As a student at Brooklyn International High School, Barry got an internship at Recycle-A-Bicycle, where he built and learned to maintain his own bike. For 10 months, he worked with area officials on the planning and development of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway – a 14-mile (23-kilometer) multi-use path that passes through a number of multi-cultural communities – and took his first trip to Washington, DC, for the National Bike Summit.
For Barry, the bicycle became more than a means of transportation. “I see everything around me in a new way, as if everything has come to life and everything is suddenly possible,” he said.
Thanks, in part, to organizations like Recycle-A-Bicycle, the next generation of cyclists will likely look more like Alpha Barry than the past archetype of the affluent, spandex-wearing white male. The growing community bike shop movement is widening the movement by providing free or low-cost bicycles to youth and adults in exchange for their time and energy. Traditional advocacy groups are more often – and more effectively – outreaching to diverse neighborhoods, too.
Since the inception of the Major Taylor program, Ewing and Cascade Bicycle Club have provided bicycles, education and programming to more than 430 students at some of the city’s most diverse schools. The LACBC is just one of many advocacy groups that have created Spanish-language literature and education classes. In the US capital, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association started a new effort in a predominantly African-American community “East of the Anacostia,” where bicycle infrastructure and outreach have been virtually nonexistent.